For this year’s World Book Night, some free-speech-loving folk in Meridian, Idaho, had the great idea to hand out free copies of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is currently suspended from classroom use in the Meridian school district due to a pending challenge (it’s also a pretty popular target of censors, according to the ALA). In the midst of their giveaway, though, the book pushers received some unexpected visitors: the local police.
The book distribution was organized by Mountain View High School junior Brady Kissel and two employees of Boise’s Rediscovered Bookshop, Erin Nelson and Wally Johnston. Donated copies of the book have been pouring in to Meridian due to a fundraising drive started by two Washington women who have raised more than $3,000 — enough for 350 books — and just this week Alexie’s publisher Little, Brown agreed to give another 350.
About an hour after Kissel, Nelson, and Johnston started their distribution in a Meridian park on Wednesday, says local news station KBOI, police officers arrived in response to a call from a citizen who was “concerned about teenagers picking up a copy of the book without having a parent’s permission.” The police questioned Kissel, but happily sanity prevailed as they decided the student was doing nothing wrong and allowed the giveaway to continue. The copies sent by Little, Brown will be distributed at another event planned for next week.
After the Meridian School Board removed Absolutely True Diary from class reading lists earlier this month, CBLDF and other organizational members of the Kids’ Right to Read Project sent the Board members a letter reminding them of the court-affirmed free speech rights of students. Check out the full letter below:
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.